Episode 4- Setting Music in a Cultural and Historical Context

Episode 4 – Setting Music in a Cultural and Historical Context: An Interview with Ed Sweeney

Ed Sweeney: Multi-Instrumentalist, Composer/Arranger, Recording Artist

Ed Sweeney is a Rhode Island-based multi-instrumentalist whose knack for eclecticism and excavating overlooked songs has led him to a multitude of diverse musical experiences and relationships with musicians from all over the world. He was the Finance Director for Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project for 15 years. He has also worked with pipa master, Yang Wei, on writing and recording music that incorporates both Eastern and Western traditions. Through his musical expertise, breadth of knowledge, and wonderful sense of humor, Ed helps listeners come to understand the motivations, stories, and culture that have made us who and what we are today.  Ed performs a wide-ranging repertoire on 6- and 12-string guitar, 5-string banjo, and fretless banjo in theatres, concerts, coffee houses, schools, clubs, tea houses, festivals, house concerts — almost any venue imaginable. His concerts and recordings have earned numerous accolades throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. He has been featured on NPR and his music is currently heard on hundreds of radio stations and on-line networks.  His music was part of the Ken Burns documentary Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony and has been heard on television soundtracks and as background music in Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and Disneyland Tokyo.

In this podcast, Ed talks about his work presenting American Folk Music in its cultural and historical context, focusing particularly on the work of Stephen Foster. He presents this program, along with Mary King and Cathy Clasper-Torch, at local libraries and churches. Through their community-based performances, they are able to both educate and entertain audiences while connecting them to their collective cultural heritage.

Topics in this episode include:

  • The collection and preservation of American Folk Music
  • The use of folk music in music education
  • Minstrel shows – what they were and their cultural impact
  • How Stephen Foster’s music portrayed the humanity of the enslaved
  • How updated language can be more inclusive
  • How community music can present music and culture that has been lost amidst increased industrialization and technological advances
  • How community music can set music in a cultural and historical context
  • How community music can reconnect audiences to their collective cultural heritage
  • How community music can both educate and entertain

Ed Sweeney can be found at the following links:

Contact Ed for more information about Mary King and Cathy Clasper-Torch.

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